HOW TO CHOOSE A GREAT DOG WALKER IN EDINBURGH
There has been a lot of negative press recently regarding dog professionals in the UK. The industry is unregulated and, as such, sadly there are a few businesses who can give the rest a bad name.
Understandably, this would make any responsible, caring dog owner think twice about trusting their beloved pet with a stranger.
However, there can be many benefits for you and your dog if you find the right person to entrust their care to, but first you need to know what kind of care would most suit your beloved friend...
DO I NEED A SOLO DOG WALKER, A GROUP DOG WALKER OR A DAY CARE FOR MY DOG?
The answer to this entirely depends on the needs of both you and your dog. The answers to the questions below would help you decide which kind of pet professional you should be looking for;
Are you looking for someone to care for your dog whilst you are at work?
Do you work long hours and are out of your house for over 8 hours during the day?
Do you work from home but just want your dog to get some socialisation time with other dogs?
Does your dog suffer from separation anxiety?
Does your dog prefer his or her own company or do they enjoy being around other dogs?
How well does your dog travel in vehicles?
So, for example, if your dog doesn't travel well and isn't that keen on other dogs then it would sensible to look for a solo walker who will walk your dog from your house, rather than taking them out in their car or van.
If your dog doesn't mind travelling and loves the company of other dogs, then a group walker who will take your dog to some exciting locations for walks might be a better fit for them (as long as your dog is over a year old - please see our previous blog on Growth Plates for more details).
Finally, if your dog suffers badly with separation anxiety (clues may be that they bark, whine and destroy furniture whilst you are out), or you are out of the house for more than 8 hours per day, then perhaps it would be wise to find someone who offers a day care service. Please note that if your dog does suffer with separation anxiety, it would always be highly recommended that you also enlist the services of a great dog behaviourist who can help work with you to reduce their anxiety.
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR WHEN CHOOSING A DOG WALKER IN EDINBURGH?
Sadly, the dog walking industry in the UK is completely unregulated. This means that anyone can set up a business and call themselves a professional dog walker or day care provider (although if they offer a day care facility they must have a boarding licence - more on that later).
In Edinburgh there are several hundred professional dog walkers, so how do you make sure you choose one who has the knowledge and experience to provide your dog with a safe, fun and mentally stimulating experience but also the professionalism to be reliable and trustworthy to you as their client?
Below are some key things to look out for;
ARE THEY REGISTERED WITH EDINBURGH CITY COUNCIL?
In Edinburgh, professional dog walkers can voluntarily register with Edinburgh City Council. By doing so, they agree to adhere to their Code of Conduct. This is a really good indication of how seriously a professional dog walker takes their responsibility, because there is no obligation to do so. When they register, they will receive a A4 sign to display in their vehicle and a small badge they can carry with them. Ask to see either of these for evidence that they are registered.
DO THEY HAVE PET BUSINESS INSURANCE?
Sadly, there is no legal obligation for a professional dog walker to have this, so it is very important to check before trusting your dog into someone's care. There are many companies who will provide insurance but cover can hugely vary, so check out the details of their policy carefully. Some things to look for include;
How much is their Public Liability Cover? Ideally £10 million would be the figure to aim for, as the costs associated with an accident can quickly spiral if a dog runs out in front of a car and causes a major pile up of vehicles.
Does their policy insure staff if they have any?
How many dogs are they insured to walk at one time? Many insurance companies will cap cover at 6 dogs, so if your walker has a policy like this but is walking more in the group, then their policy will be invalid.
Does their policy cover home boarding and day care at their property?
Does their policy have non-negligent cover to pay for vet's bills that occur following an accidental injury to an dog in their care?
ARE THEY QUALIFIED IN CANINE FIRST AID?
As a basic minimum, any dog professional should hold a valid certificate in Canine First Aid. However, not all qualifications are equal. Things to look out for include;
Was their qualification obtained online or at a practical workshop? When it comes to First Aid, practical training is always preferential. The individual will then have had the opportunity to practice skills such as bandages and canine CPR.
Who conducted the training? Was it a qualified Veterinarian nurse or a company who do lots of different kinds of training? There is nothing to say that the latter will not be sufficient, but if your chosen pet professional has been trained by someone who has dealt with many real-life dog emergencies, then their skill set is likely to be higher.
When did they last update their training? Many qualifications are valid for three years but some pet professionals like to update their training annually to keep it fresh in their mind.
HAVE THEY BEEN POLICE CHECKED?
You will most likely be trusting this professional with a key to your property as well as the safety of your beloved dog, so it is important for your peace of mind to check if they have a criminal record. Of course, this is no guarantee that there will not be any issues, but it will provide some confidence, as well as demonstrate that they take their job seriously. Most dog walkers will hold a Basic Disclosure Scotland certificate, or something similar. Ask to view this before enlisting their services.
DO THEY HAVE ANY TRAINING OR QUALIFICATIONS?
As previously mentioned, the professional dog walking industry is not regulated in the United Kingdom. Therefore, there are many companies providing various forms of training and it is hard to know what to look for. Some top tips would include;
Are they regularly attending workshops or completing courses that will improve their skills and knowledge? It is commonplace to receive certificates when completing these things, so ask to see them.
Have they completed any training specifically in dog behaviour and body language? This is extremely important, especially if they walk groups of dogs. Dogs communicate through their body language and if your dog walker does not understand this well, then it is very easy for fights to break out.
HOW DO THEY INTEND TO TRANSPORT YOUR DOG?
This is such an important consideration when choosing a professional dog walker, and one that many owners sadly overlook. Any good dog walker will allow you to inspect their vehicle before trusting them with your dog, so please ask to do so. In my years as a professional dog walker, I have seen many situations that have angered and terrified me in equal measures. These are some basic requirement that you should look for when inspecting how your chosen pet professional transports their dogs;
There should be a crate/cage for each dog being walked. Sometimes dogs from the same household will happily travel in a cage together, but dogs from separate households never should.
If the dog walker has a van, the cages should be bolted/built in so that they will not move around during transport.
Dogs should all have access to fresh water whilst in the vehicle.
Ideally, at least one of the cages should be able to be visually separated from the rest, for dogs who may be anxious or stressed travelling.
WHERE WILL THEY TAKE MY DOG?
Edinburgh is a beautiful city and we are lucky to have so many great locations for dogs right on our doorstep! It's important to find out where your chosen pet professional plans to take your dog. There is a massive difference between letting them run around the local park and going on adventures to Cramond beach, Arthur's Seat, Blackford Hill and such places. Now, the age and health of your dog may impact where you want them walked. If you have a senior dog, then the local park may well be ideal for them. But if you have a young, healthy dog you will no doubt want them to go to more exciting and varied locations. Don't be afraid to ask about where your dog will be going!
OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING A DOG WALKER IN EDINBURGH
This blog covers a massive topic and I could write a dissertation on how to choose a great professional to look after your dog! However, I've tried to keep things concise to ensure the main points have all been covered. Here are some final considerations to make, which are equally important when considering your decision;
What do their existing and previous clients have to say? Check out their testimonials and reviews on Facebook, Google and on their website.
How many dogs does the walker take out at once? As stated previously, many insurance policies cover a maximum of 6 dogs at any one time. Whilst there are undoubtedly some professionals who are capable of handling larger groups than this, it would be good advice to choose someone who takes a maximum of 6 to ensure your dog can get the individual care and attention it needs whilst part of the group.
Do you want someone who will also be able to board your dog when you go on holiday? If so, check that they hold an Animal Boarding Licence issued by Edinburgh City Council. This is an annual licence which they pay for. To obtain it, they have to abide by certain criteria and also have their home/premises inspected by the council. Sadly, some boarders operate without a licence. This means that if anything should happen to your dog whilst boarding with them, their insurance will be invalid. As a side note, anyone offering day care where the dogs spend time in their house should also have a boarding licence.
When you meet the pet professional whom you are considering to care for your dog, do they come across as patient? This is such an essential skill when caring for your pet, so it is a quality to really look out for.
I hope this blog has given you a good foundation of knowledge for choosing the pet professional in Edinburgh that you want to look after your dog. If you have any questions about this topic or any of the services we provide at Clan Canines, don't hesitate to get in touch!